Germany’s Matthias Kessler was caught a hundred metres from the line in Esch-sur-Alzette on Monday but 24 hours later he timed his attack perfectly over the top of the Cauberg climb to win stage three to Valkenberg.
T-Mobile team mate Michael Rogers was the surprise winner of the bunch sprint for second place, five seconds behind Kessler, with Italy’s Daniele Bennati (Lampre) third and Tom Boonen (Quick Step) fourth.
Rogers was chasing the yellow jersey but with Boonen third it was the big Belgian who took the race lead by one second. George Hincapie (Discovery Channel) is third overall at five seconds.
David Millar finished 43rd at five seconds and is now 13th overall at 21 seconds. Wiggins again stayed with Cofidis team sprinter Jimmy Casper and finished 131st at 2-44. He is now 152nd at 9-54.
“I went close yesterday, so I was determined to try again today and it went right!” Kessler said.
“I went five kilometres from the finish yesterday and the bunch chased me down. This time I went on the last climb and stayed clear to the line.”
Tom Boonen revealed he was unable to sprint because he had a slow front puncture just before the Cauberg.
“I had to do the climb and sprint in the saddle but fortunately I still got the yellow jersey,” he said.
“If I’d won everything my Tour would have been better but now I’m in yellow and green and so I have to be happy. I’ll be wearing the yellow jersey in Belgium tomorrow (during stage four) and there’s a chance of that once every ten years, so I have to be satisifed.”
The stage was animated by a five-rider break with Jose Luis Arrieta (AG2R), Jens Voigt (CSC), Unai Etxebarria (Euskaltel), Jerome Pineau (Bouygues), and Christophe Laurent (Agritubel) going away after 17kms. They forced the average speed for the stage to over 43km/h but were caught 15kms from the finish. Only Jose Luis Arrieta stayed clear on his own but he was passed at the start of the Cauberg.
Boonen was well placed on the climb but Kessler spoilt his party with a powerful late move.
The stage was marred by several crashes with Spain’s Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d’Epargne), Fred Rodriguez (Davitamon) and Erik Dekker (Rabobank) all forced to retire after serious injuries. Valverde broke his right collarbone, while Dekker, in his last race before retirement, suffered serious cuts and injuries to his face.
1 Matthias Kessler (Ger) T-Mobile 216.5kms in 4.57.54
2 Michael Rogers (Aus) T-Mobile 0.05
3 Daniele Bennati (Ita) Lampre-Fondital
4 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick-Step-Innergetic
5 Erik Zabel (Ger) Milram
6 Luca Paolini (Ita) Liquigas
7 Oscar Freire (Spa) Rabobank
8 Eddy Mazzoleni (Ita) T-Mobile
9 Georg Totschnig (Aut) Gerolsteiner
10 Fabian Wegmann (Ger) Gerolsteiner all same time
Overall standings after stage 3
1 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick-Step-Innergetic 14.52.23
2 Michael Rogers (Aus) T-Mobile 0.01
3 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel 0.05
4 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole 0.07
5 Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Discovery Channel 0.15
6 Daniele Bennati (Ita) Lampre-Fondital
7 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak 0.16
8 Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Caisse d’Epargne-Illes Balear 0.17
9 Serguei Gonchar (Ukr) T-Mobile
10 Matthias Kessler (Ger) T-Mobile same time.